ELMORE, Ohio — Built in 1929, the State Route 51 bridge over the Portage River has seen better days.

For years, the Ohio Department of Transportation has been working to find a viable solution to fix the crumbling infrastructure of this registered historic landmark. But the only option left is total demolition and the construction of a brand new bridge.

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"But it's almost 100 years old and it is coming to an end of its life cycle. Even if you drive out there now, there's a barrier wall along the sides of the driving lane. And that's for safety, the railing is failing," ODOT spokesperson Rebecca Dangelo said. 

The $6.5 million project begun this week and will close through traffic over the Portage River in mid-March.

Then, crews will demolish the old structure and build a new bridge with a wider sidewalk on the east side, and a new multi-use path on the west. Additionally, the steep elevation grade downhill to the bridge will be leveled out a bit as well.

Once closed, drivers that need to cross the Portage will have to travel about four miles either east or west to find the nearest crossing.

The two nearest Portage River crossings are on US 20 in Woodville and the State Route 590 bridge in Harris Township
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The village of Elmore and other organizations are currently making sure neighbors and businesses are aware of the upcoming inconvenience. 

"The village has been working with us on how they can do different activities and things to promote their village while this closure is happening. So, they've been really great to work with and to coordinate with. Unfortunately, it is still a closure and it's going to be very impactful," Dangelo said. 

While this project won't be complete until November, ODOT crews are hoping to have the bridge at least open to through traffic by the end of August.